5 things to consider before donating your hair

Here’s what you need to prep for donating your hair »

I’ve always had long hair. Besides a traumatic incident the summer before seventh grade when I brought in a photo of medium-length hair to the salon, and ended up with an unflattering above-the-shoulder cut just in time for the first day of school, I’ve long considered Rapunzel-like strands to be my thing. Last year though, I started noticing a short hair trend that I could fully get behind: lobs. Behold, a cut as classic and chic as a bob, but still trendy. Celebrities like Jessica Alba, Taylor Swift and Emma Stone have all adopted this cool, low maintenance style that looks good with waves, curls or straight hair. Even bed head seems to look street style-ready with the lob.

But I thought, if I’m going to potentially risk reliving my pre-teen trauma, I should use my long-loved locks for a good cause. My sister was also preparing to donate her waist-length hair, so she inspired me to wait six months, grow my hair out even longer and adapt emotionally to such a big change.

Thinking of going for the lob or another equally awesome short hairstyle in the name of a good cause? Kudos to you! Here are the five things to consider before donating your hair.

1. Do your research
Look into the charity of your choice and review the submission requirements.  Make sure you understand what the organization will use the hair for and that it’s for a cause close to your heart. I decided to donate to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program because they are directly affiliated with the Canadian Cancer Society and my hair met all of the eligibility requirements (at least eight inches, free of bleach, permanent dyes and chemical treatments and no more than 5% grey). Other options include Locks of Love, which provides hair pieces for children, or Look Good Feel Better, through which you can host your own hair-cutting donation party.

2. Decide on the length and style
Think about how much you’re willing to chop off and grow your hair until you have enough to donate—typically at least eight inches. Measure from your longest layer, straightening out any waves or curls, and see where you land. If the ruler goes farther than you’re willing to go, give your hair some time to grow until you’re comfortable.

You should also consider your hair texture and discuss with your stylist before settling on a cut. My stylist agreed that with thick hair like mine, the lob with longer strands in the front, is best to avoid a triangle mass of frizz when worn au naturel. If you have thinner hair, she says, you can opt for a more severe, blunt cut, like that of another short hair convert, Karlie Kloss.

3. Maintain, maintain, maintain
Take care of your hair as best you can before making the big chop so that the organization can use as much as possible. If your hair is slightly damaged, use a repairing shampoo and conditioner, such as Schwarzkopf BC Hairtherapy Repair Rescue, every time you wash and a deep-conditioning treatment every few days or weeks, depending on how dry your hair is. Avoid heat styling, permanent colouring and chemical treatments, since some charities won’t accept hair that has been subjected to harsh processes. Lastly, although you may be getting one of the biggest haircuts of your life, it doesn’t mean you can postpone a haircut all together. Go for regular trims every four to eight weeks to ensure the hair stays healthy and beautiful for its new home.

4. Make the appointment
Most organizations don’t require a predetermined location for your cut, but allow you to pick your own. So choose a salon and stylist who you’re comfortable with. I told my stylist my plan to donate and the style I wanted months before and she checked in with me every so often to see if I was ready. Finally, after months of deliberation and fighting with my too-long strands, I booked the appointment, fully armed with a Pinterest board of inspiration and, I’d like to think, a bit of courage.

5. Plan for your new look
Emotionally prepare for the fact that you’ll no longer be able to create some of the styles that you’ve become accustomed to with long hair (i.e. the halo braid and long beach waves). But with a new cut comes an exciting opportunity to try new looks. Play around online to see what kind of styles you’ll be going for and build an arsenal of tools and products to help you achieve that look. I made sure to buy styling cream, like OSIS+ Curl Me Soft, for wavy days, a heat protectant, like Marc Anthony Bye Bye Frizz Blow Dry Cream, for straight days, and dry shampoo, like Aveeno Pure Renewal Dry Shampoo, for second-day strands. It may take a while to get used to, but experiment with your new look, remember it’s for a good cause and don’t forget that you can always grow it back.